Ah, the Oscars. That glorious time of the year when Hollywood pats itself on the back.
I’ve made no secret of my thoughts about how awards like this do more to trivialize movies and their importance than anything else. Art should never be a contest. That said, I can’t deny that it’s still fun to watch these things as they happen and root for movies that I love.
So with that, here’s a look at some of this year’s nominees and my thoughts and predictions on who could and should win.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Nominees: Sally Hawkins, “Blue Jasmine”; Jennifer Law-rence “American Hustle”; Julia Roberts, “August: Osage County”; June Squibb, “Nebraska”; Lup-ita Nyong’o, “12 Years a Slave.”
Who will win: I could see either Roberts or Squibb walking away with this as it’s too soon after Law-rence’s win last year and Hawkins (great as her performance is) just doesn’t seem to have garnered much attention. Nyong’o is a little bit of a longshot given that she’s a relative newcomer, but her work is strong enough to win it. I’d put my money on her.
Who should win: “12 Years a Slave” was one of 2013’s best films and Nyong’o is a huge reason why. Her performance as Patsy, the slave girl whom Michael Fassbender’s despicable plantation owner is in love with, is phenomenal and very much worthy of Oscar gold.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Nominees: Barkhad Abdi, “Captain Phillips”; Bradley Cooper, “American Hustle”; Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”; Michael Fassbender, “12 Years a Slave”; Jonah Hill, “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
Who will win: Leto jumps to the head of the pack here thanks to his Golden Globe win in the category, but this is one of those where just about any nominee would be justified in a win. Well, maybe less so with Hill. He was fine but I didn’t feel like he was irreplaceable in “Wolf.”
Who should win: I’ll be seeing “Dallas Buyers Club” this weekend so I can’t fully say I want Leto to win, but he’s always done good work. That said, Fassbender and Abdi were both remarkable in their work. That’s no surprise about Fassbender, but Abdi, a Somalia native, essentially came out of nowhere to give one of the most arresting and subtly complex performances of the year.
Nominees: Amy Adams, “American Hustle”; Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”; Sandra Bullock, “Gravity”; Judi Dench, “Philomena”; Meryl Streep, “August: Osage County.”
Who will win: Streep just won last year, so she’s out. Dench and Adams both stand a strong chance, Adams especially for her great work in “Hustle” and I could actually see Bullock swooping in with a surprise (but still deserved) win here. But it’s Blanchett who owns this thing.
Who should win: Blanchett gave not just one of the best performances by a lead actress last year, but one of the best performances period. Her work as Jasmine in Woody Allen’s latest is career-best stuff and I found myself riveted by her work even as Jasmine became more and more of a pathetic wreck of a human being.
Nominees: Christian Bale, “American Hustle”; Bruce Dern, “Nebraska”; Leonardo DiCaprio, “The Wolf of Wall Street”; Chiwetel Ejiofor, “12 Years a Slave”; Matthew McConaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club.”
Who will win: First off, how cool is it that McConaughey went from a punchline to a guy whose work has been consistently phenomenal over the last three years? (Answer: So very cool.) That said, everyone here more or less deserves to win. Bale is excellent (though I still think his previous work with David O. Russell in “The Fighter” was better). I haven’t seen “Nebraska” yet, but c’mon, it’s Bruce Dern. McConaughey has gotten nothing but praise and accolades for his work and Ejiofor blew me away in “12 Years a Slave.”
Who should win: I’m pretty angry that Tom Hanks got snubbed for his amazing performance in “Captain Phillips.” That was some career-best stuff. The same goes for Oscar Isaac in “Inside Llewyn Davis.” That said, I’ll wait to give a final call until after I’ve seen “Dallas Buyers Club” because I’d love a McConaughey win, but I think Ejiofor deserves this the most. His work as Solomon was such an incredible portrait of strength, resolve and grace under unspeakable horror.
Nominees: David O. Russell, “American Hustle”; Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity”; Alexander Payne, “Nebraska”; Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave”; Martin Scorsese, “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
Who will win: Don’t be surprised at all to hear Cuaron’s name called. “Gravity” was an immaculately crafted film and Cuaron used every trick and tool available to give us something that felt truly fresh and exciting. Russell, however, could be in for the upset.
Who should win: The Coen Brothers, Spike Jonze and Paul Greengrass getting snubbed for “Inside Llewyn Davis,” “Her” and “Captain Phillips,” respectively, is maddening. However, I would be just fine with a Cuaron win. I’d also love to see Scorsese get a win again, too, but that’s not happening. That said, I think it’s McQueen whose work most deserves to be recognized for delivering one of the most harrowingly honest depictions of American slavery ever seen on film.
Nominees: “American Hustle,” “Captain Phillips,” “Her,” “Gravity,” “Dallas Buyers Club,” “Nebraska,” “Philomena,” “12 Years a Slave,” “The Wolf of Wall Street.”
Who will win: I have this ever-creeping feeling that “Hustle” is going to win. I hope it doesn’t. The acting was quite good, but it felt so hollow and quite honestly I was mostly bored with it for the majority of its runtime. It will probably win. “Gravity” stands a pretty good chance, too, I think.
Who should win: Although I didn’t see “Her” until just last week, I count it as the best film of 2013. No one other than Spike Jonze could have taken such a silly premise and turned it into one of the most nuanced, thoughtful and tender love stories of the last decade or so. It’s an incredible film that has sparked some wonderful talks and debates, the truest sign of a great piece of art. That said, I’d be A-OK with a win for “Captain Phillips,” “12 Years,” “Gravity” or “Wolf of Wall Street.”
And now I’ll close with some final, scattershot thoughts. “Frozen” should win both Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song. I am fuming that “Pacific Rim” got snubbed for a Visual Effects nod in favor of “The Lone Ranger” and “Star Trek Into Darkness.” Will someone please give Roger Deakins a cinematography Oscar already? And while I’m very, very disappointed “Inside Llewyn Davis” got almost universally snubbed, that’s ironically fitting considering the film’s thematic territory.
The Oscars will be broadcast live at 6 p.m. Sunday, March 2 on ABC and will be hosted by Elle DeGeneres.